Yes, it’s true, I have finally succumbed to the “fad” known as social networking. Being the tech geek that I am, you’d think I would have caught on sooner, but it seems I am a latecomer to this particular party.

It all started back in March, when I dipped my toe in the water by creating a professional profile on LinkedIn. I was surprised to discover how many contacts from my email address book already had a presence there! I immediately connected to many of them, and I’m strangely proud of the quality of the LinkedIn network that I have established, both as the inviter and the invitee. These are the professionals — coworkers, clients, and industry colleagues — whom I want to keep track of and in touch with. I may need them some day.

Then in July, spurred by two unrelated but nearly simultaneous requests, I hit Facebook and immediately started linking up with friends, family members, and former classmates. One friend wondered what took me so long to get there, being a high tech blogger and all. The answer is, I didn’t get it. But now I do! I love checking in on the brief status updates of my friends every day and enjoying a few rounds of Scramble (a highly addictive Boggle style game). Through Facebook, I know who is facing surgery, who is dodging hurricanes, who is traveling, who loves laundry, who is watching what on TV, who is doing what at work, and what type of mood various friends may be in, among other things. It has quickly become a preferred way to stay in touch. Recently, I planned an outing with some local friends entirely through Facebook. And thanks to a neat application called Simplaris Blogcast, I have even managed to rig this very blog to automatically notify Facebook whenever I publish a new entry. Blogcast adds a link to the new post directly in my Facebook profile. I don’t have to do a thing!

But now, less than two months into Facebook, people are telling me I should be on Twitter, too. Say what? I just can’t keep up with the bleeding edge of technology that is moving faster than the speed of light. I’m not so sure I have time for all this social networking. Or the desire to broadcast my life so constantly and minutely, which is what a site like Twitter seems to encourage. That, I still don’t get.

What I do “get” is the cool new “ShareThis” link that is now at the bottom of all of my posts. A good friend was recently named Chief Product Officer (announced yesterday) for the company responsible for this clever utility. If you are so inclined, at the click of a button you can now share any of my posts with your choice of social bookmarking or social networking sites, or forward the link directly to anyone via email. I think it’s a very elegant solution to eliminating the clutter of social icons that I see on some blogs, and I am proud to add it to mine.

One for the Kingdom

For a 3-month period between March 29 and July 1, 2008, I gave up on blogging. Not permanently, of course. But other activities and obligations piled on one after another, ceaselessly demanding my attention. Something had to give. My muse, rejecting the argument that sleep is an overrated luxury, finally rebelled; I cracked and took a prolonged blogging break.

I present this fact as the most pitiful of excuses to explain why I failed to document here a very significant event that took place during this time. On Sunday, May 4, 2008, our daughter Maia was baptized.

Maia's baptism

It’s a decision she had been talking about for a while, and we gently encouraged her whenever she brought it up, always letting her lead the discussion, fearful of pushing her into a decision that was not truly her own. But we knew it was only a matter of time, since the signs of her uninhibited faith had been growing steadily. I submit as partial evidence Exhibit A and Exhibit B. And those are but two examples in a long list. There are many more like them.

Sometimes I find post-it notes stuck in odd places around the house, such as inside the door of the linen closet, with messages like “I love Jesus” proclaimed in Maia’s youthful handwriting. In school (public school, no less), she openly shares her faith with her friends. Once, in an exercise related to a story the class had read, her teacher asked each student what three items they would take with them if stranded in the desert. Maia’s first response was her Bible. It wasn’t the second or the third thing she named. It was at the top of the list. She also begs to be the one to pray at every meal, especially when we are in the company of others, and often astounds me with the insight and depth of those prayers. More than once I have wondered how words so perfect for the occasion can come out of the mouth of a nine-year-old.

And so it was that she came to the decision that 2008 would be the year. Initially she wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps and be baptized on her birthday, which falls on a Sunday this year. But October was too far away, and she didn’t think she wanted to wait that long. Then she started thinking maybe in the summer, until she learned that “Bring a Friend” Sunday was coming up soon. She knew immediately that would be the day, with her baptism as a wonderful witness to the expected visitors. A meeting with our preacher confirmed what we already knew—that Maia was making her decision for the right reasons, and she was ready.

When the day arrived, she never wavered. Maia repeated the confession of faith with confidence and maturity, in front of a congregation that has been her church family since birth. Kent declined the opportunity to perform the baptism himself, fearing he would be too emotional. So we watched together, moved beyond reason as a faithful little soul accepted Christ as her Lord and Savior.

On second thought…

Dear Fay,

You tricky, tricky storm. Perhaps I was too hasty in my judgment of you. Yesterday, I called you overhyped. Today, you retaliated with something that actually resembles weather.

Your torrential rains have flooded many areas on this wet, blustery day, including my own back yard. Schools, which finally re-opened this morning (ironically on your worst day), are closed again tomorrow now that you have succeeded in making some roads impassable. My drive home from work tonight almost bordered on treacherous, thanks to your gusty winds, newly formed potholes, and leaf strewn roads. And now our lights are flickering, so perhaps we will yet attribute loss of electricity to you, as well.

I know you are just doing your job, my stormy friend, but now that you have had your rebellious little parting shot, it is time to take your nastiness elsewhere. I still don’t like you. And it’s still nothing personal.

Sincerely,

A concerned citizen

Much ado about nothing

Dear Tropical Storm Fay,

I know it’s not your fault, but you are a symptom of all that is wrong with our storm obsessed local media, who like to hype non-events like yourself and then wonder why no one takes the warnings for the real storms seriously.

Because of you, my kids have needlessly lost two days of school. You may be an aspiring hurricane wannabe, but you simply are not menacing enough to warrant such influence over the education of my children. Garden variety summer breezes pack more punch than you; I have not seen so much as a single leaf blown off a tree since you made your overhyped appearance in our neck of the woods.

You are a sissy storm, and now you are stalled just off our coast, making a nuisance of yourself with gray and rainy weather. And while I am thankful that you have not done more damage, and grateful that, courtesy of you, we will not have to irrigate our lawn or add water to the pool this week, I don’t like you. You irritate me. It’s nothing personal.

Sincerely,

A concerned citizen

My baby is all growed up

I think I have the most disobedient kids in the world, because never once have they heeded my admonishments to stay little forever and stop growing up. The latest act of blatant rebellion? Noah stepping onto the school bus for his first day of kindergarten.

A mother can surely be forgiven for tearing up at such a sight, right?

And this same mother should likewise be forgiven for letting her overprotective instincts rule by racing ahead to meet the bus at school, making sure that her baby knew where to go. And of course she must also be forgiven for getting choked up as she waved goodbye to him in the classroom, having already chosen a seat among the other kids.

So began my day, with the stark realization that my baby is a baby no more. He is growing up far faster than I have given him permission for, and I don’t like it one bit.

I worried about the little guy all day long. Was he overwhelmed by the strange classroom and new faces? Did he like his teacher? Would he participate in class? Did he eat his lunch? Was he making friends? And just how many seconds left until I could leave work to go home and hear all about his first day?

Apparently I had nothing to worry about. He had friends to play with, and he ate pizza for lunch, and he offered “alligator” when asked for words that start with the letter A. And the very best part of kindergarten, I learned, is the amazing revelation that you can have chocolate milk at lunch EVERY DAY.

I’d say the first day of kindergarten was a success. But I’m still not happy that it came long before I was ready to see my baby step onto that school bus like a big boy, his face beaming from the window, all growed up.

The last number

For all the math competitions I took part in during high school and all the math awards I won, there is one mathematical tidbit I must claim ignorance on. I do not know what the last number is. I’m sure it is infinitely more than my feeble mind can comprehend. But according to my son, that’s how much he loves me. More than a hundred, more than a million, more than a zillion. He claims he loves me all the way to the last number.

I don’t know what the last number is, but now I know that it is an incredible sum to be treasured forever. Who else but a child can bestow such incalculable love?

Overprotective mothers

This week Maia added a new favorite to her repertoire of summer camp experiences. Rock climbing. I did not know such a summer camp existed, but it turns out that we have an indoor rock climbing facility practically in our own back yard, and they do, indeed, host weekly camps. But there was a hitch. In order for children to participate, parents must sign a release form acknowledging that the equipment could fail and your child could, you know, die.

I have read and signed my share of waivers in my time on this planet, but until now, I have never been scared into having second thoughts. This one, however, made me wonder if I was sending my child to certain injury or death. So I asked about the safety record of the facility and, satisfied with the response, took a deep breath and initialed next to each and every possible dire consequence and every imaginable disclaimer of liability.

My friend and her daughter were there at drop-off on Monday morning, too, and together we also inquired about helmets. Turns out they are only provided upon request. We did not request; we insisted.

Because of our carpool arrangement, my friend picked the girls up on Monday afternoon only to discover that ours were the only two kids wearing helmets. One of the counselors pulled her aside and discreetly showed her how the helmets were really more of a hindrance than a help. Still, Maia and her friend gamely wore the helmets and when asked about them by the other kids, they knowingly explained, “overprotective mothers.”

Oh man oh man, when did I turn into one of THOSE mothers? And where did my daughter gain the confidence to take it all in stride, rather than sink into the ground in embarrassment as I would have done at her age?

My friend and I deliberated briefly and decided to rescind the helmet mandate. The girls completed the rest of the week helmet free, and you know what? Nobody died. But still, my observant readers will notice that I waited until the end of the week to blog only in hindsight about being a silly overprotective mother. That was intentional.

Just in case.

20 years later

20 years is a long time to lay claim to a label, especially one that describes who you were far more accurately than who you’ve become.

In my case it is a label that was correctly bestowed on me during my senior year of high school, when I was voted “Most Shy.” Back then, that’s exactly what I was. Anyone who remembers me at all from my school years remembers me as quiet, sweet, nice. My yearbooks are littered with these words from my classmates. Perhaps the sentiments were sincere (I would, after all, like to believe that I am nice), but I’ve always secretly suspected they were code for “I don’t really know you well enough to write anything else.” Yet it was almost certainly my own social fright that stood in the way of making deeper connections and lasting memories with the very people I had grown up with.

20 years can change a lot about a person, however, and while I will always be an introvert at heart, people who know me now are frequently shocked to learn that I was ever considered shy. Last weekend at my 20-year reunion I finally had the opportunity to demonstrate that to my former classmates. While it probably wasn’t enough time to change my shy image, it felt good to be free of the awkwardness that used to plague me.

I’m glad I attended the reunion. There were many people I was delighted to see—some of whom I wish I could have spent more time catching up with, and others whom I quite possibly spoke to for the very first time, ever. Even though we may have had little in common back then, there is that shared connection of having grown up in the same place and attended the same schools and known the same people that bonds us all together permanently. And that, dear readers, is kind of cool. Even, maybe especially, for the shy girl.

Happy Anniversary

Exactly one year ago, in recognition of my 13th wedding anniversary,  I wrote about our fairy tale wedding. That has since become the single most popular post on this blog, bringing nearly half of all traffic that lands here from Google and other search engines. Mostly the visits are from people who want to know whether rainy wedding days bring good luck. To those people I offer these words of wisdom: embrace the rain and make beautiful memories from it. But don’t depend on the weather to predict wedded bliss. The success of your union requires commitment, not precipitation.

It’s now been 14 wonderful years for us. Rain or shine, I would not trade them for anything! I have only to glance at other people’s relationships to know just how blessed I am. Happy Anniversary, Kent. I love you.

Ahhhh, this is the life

We’re on vacation in North Carolina high country this week, and I think I’m never going home. Here’s why.

The front porch of our secluded mountain cabin:

Cabin front porch

The rear of our mountain cabin:

Cabin back porch

The view from the back deck:

Back porch view

Our days so far have been filled with leisurely taking in the scenery and attractions of the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains, breathing the fresh mountain air as we relax in rockers on the front porch with good books and tall glasses of sweet, cold lemonade, and enjoying evening soaks in the hot tub on the back deck, surrounded by the sights and sounds of nature.

This is a restorative vacation that is truly good for the soul. I want more!

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